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OIA in D.C. Notes from the Hill: March 2023

Under the new leadership of Outdoor Industry Association’s President, Kent Ebersole, OIA has a renewed focus on promoting crucial legislation like America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA) and working with the Biden administration to further protect our public lands, waterways, and special outdoor spaces. We look forward to expanding these initiatives next month at OIA’s 2023 Capitol Summit, where industry leaders from across the continent will gather in D.C.  

Announcing Kent Ebersole as the New OIA President 

On March 21, our Board of Directors named industry veteran Kent Ebersole as President of OIA after serving seven months as the organization’s interim executive director. 

“Every OIA member, staff, board member, or donor is a catalyst for knowledge, sustainability, collective action, inclusion and connection,” said Ebersole. “Collectively, the outdoor industry is a force of nature and most importantly a force of change. None of the work we do could happen if it wasn’t for our passionate members and collaborators. I thank them and the OIA board for this opportunity to lead our industry forward.” 

Congressional Outdoor Recreation Legislation  

After building significant support for AORA in the last Congress with lawmakers, industry leaders, and other stakeholders, we are thrilled to see Senators Manchin (D-WV) and Barrasso (R-WY) reintroduce this legislation as federal support for and investments in recreation infrastructure and public lands are critical to the continued success of the outdoor industry.  

In a letter– which will be sent to the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – OIA expresses how provisions laid out in AORA will increase access to the outdoors by simplifying the permitting process for public lands and cutting regulatory red tape that creates barriers to recreation, providing meaningful economic opportunities to countless communities and local outdoor industry businesses.  

Additionally, Fred Ferguson, vice president of public affairs and communications at Vista, testified before the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands on March 28, advocating for policies like the BOLT Act, Range Access Act, FILM Act, SOAR Act, and SHRED Act to expand recreation opportunities and fund organizations whose missions bring more people outside. 

The bills would inject critical federal investments in recreation infrastructure and public parks and take steps to help ensure America’s outdoors are open, sustainable, and equally accessible for all. This package is designed to accommodate Americans’ growing participation in outdoor recreation. 

Ferguson emphasized how outdoor recreation is a pillar of the United States economy and “the current climate and long-term outlook make today’s bipartisan hearing essential, and we urge the Subcommittee to move with speed and conviction to enact these bills.” 

Applauding Biden Administration Investments in Public Lands 

On March 21, Ebersole praised President Biden’s White House Conservation in Action Summit announcement to establish two new national monuments saying, “from Utah – where OIA strongly advocated for the protection of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante – to Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in Nevada and Castner Range National Monument in Texas, we are thrilled to see President Biden protecting communities and public lands that honor local businesses, military veterans, and Tribal Nations.” 

The Biden administration continues to deliver on the most ambitious land and water conservation agenda to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The outdoor industry, along with its 100-member-strong Climate Action Corps, commends these historic investments and national monument designations. 

Announcing Partnership with Climate Neutral 

On March 28, OIA announced its latest partnership with Climate Neutral to make it easier for OIA members to measure their carbon emissions. By partnering with Climate Neutral, OIA is demonstrating its commitment to supporting sustainability in the outdoor industry and providing its members with the tools and resources they need to make a positive impact on the environment. 

The use of the Brand Emissions Estimator tool and achievement of Climate Neutral certification by a significant number of OIA members offers a tangible milestone on the pathway towards OIA’s industry goal of becoming climate positive by 2030. 

Praising the Introduction of the Environmental Justice in Recreation Permitting Act 

On March 14, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced the Environmental Justice in Recreation Permitting Actto help underserved community groups access and enjoy Nevada’s public lands for outdoor recreation. 

Ebersole praised how “simplifying the permitting process for public lands and cutting regulatory red tape will eliminate barriers to outdoor recreation, support local businesses, and bring meaningful economic opportunities to thousands of communities… We commend Senator Cortez Masto for leading the charge.” 

Updating on State and Local Activity 

State legislative sessions across the U.S. are in full swing! Here are updates about state-based work OIA is leading or supporting alongside membership and stakeholder partners. 

New Mexico: On Thursday, March 23, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund. This historic program creates a permanent fund for outdoor recreation, outdoor equity, public land conservation, climate resilience, and more. 

Wyoming: On March 9, Governor Mark Gordon signed legislation that will create the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Trust Fund with an initial $6 million appropriation. The funds will be devoted to carrying out projects supporting twelve state parks, two of the nation’s most popular national parks, and world-class hiking, hunting, fishing, and climbing. In a state where the outdoor sector contributes $1.5 billion to the state’s economy and sustains over 15,000 jobs, this funding is essential to Wyoming’s economy and heritage.